25 February 2020 10:12 PM



Government and Opposition Face Off in Parliament Over Land

Trinamool MPs protest against the land acquisition bill outside Parliament. (ANI Twitter photo).

NEW DELHI: The Land Acquisition Ordinance, one in a slew of such measures taken by the Modi government in this arrogant brandishment of power, will now be discussed with the Opposition parties in Parliament. This was finally conceded by Leader of the House Arun Jaitley after an united opposition took the government to task for passing the Ordinance at the instance of a “handful of corporates” and against the interests of the farmers.

The government adopted two different stands in the two Houses of Parliament. In the Lok Sabha where it is in majority, it tabled the amended Land Acquisition Bill leading to a walk out by the Opposition. In the Rajya Sabha it adopted a conciliatory approach, and what could even have been interpreted as a major climbdown, it agreed to hold discussions with the Opposition parties on the controversial Ordinance. Many opposition leaders, however later described this as the lull before the storm making it clear that they were in no mood to reach unacceptable compromises on this all important issue.

There was no word from the government that the controversial Ordinance will be kept in abeyance until the consultative process with the Opposition parties, at least in the Upper House, on this issue is concluded. This was demanded at the end of the Opposition intervention during zero hour on this issue in the Rajya Sabha, with Congress leader Anand Sharma saying that he would have expected Jaitley to go a step further and say that until the talks with the opposition are concluded the Ordinance will be “suspended.”

In fact last year, before the Delhi elections, government functionaries were heard hinting about a possible joint session of Parliament to get through the controversial Ordinances. This would dilute the majority that the Opposition currently enjoys in the Rajya Sabha and although a precedent that has been used only twice before, it is not prohibited by the Constitution of India in so many words. However, now this threat is not being made any longer with the government looking at “consulting” the Opposition on the Land Acquisition Ordinance in a bid to whittle down dissent, and get the amendments through.

Several leaders ---Sharad Yadav (JD(U), D.Raja (CPI), Anand Sharma (Congress), Naresh Aggarwal (SP)---and others attacked the government for using this Ordinance to facilitate land acquisition for big business, pointing to the anger and the worry amongst farmers across the country on this issue.

Significantly the Opposition leaders also expressed concern about the tendency of the Modi government to bring in legislations through Ordinances, thereby taking over the power of Parliament. Trinamool Congress party leader Derek O’ Brien pointed out, the Modi government had set a record of passing the most number of Ordinances (ten) and the least number of Bills (15) in the first eight months in power. It was made very clear to the government that Ordinance raj as the opposition leaders dubbed it would not be tolerated by Parliament, and that legislations could be passed only after adequate consultation and discussion.

The government was clearly on the backfoot in the Rajya Sabha where the Opposition has the numbers to be effective. The Anna Hazare agitation on the Land Acquisition Ordinance in Delhi has been attracting large crowds with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi party joining it openly.

The Opposition thus secured a victory on the second day of the budget session of Parliament, with the government blinking within minutes.This is a clear indication of which way the scales will be tipped this time around, with the opposition leaders clear about making the government accountable on the other Ordinances as well.